Death. A foregone conclusion to this life. Maybe. What does science say?
“Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me,” Albert Einstein wrote in a condolence letter, upon the death of his close friend Michele Besso in 1955, “that signifies nothing. For those of us who believe in physics, the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Einstein was on to something, according to a contemporary scientist.
A theory… a philosophy, really, called “Biocentrism,” explores this question and many other fundamental reality-based questions. Introduced in 2010 by Robert Lanza, a scientist, doctor, and “influential thinker” who felt that consciousness is a problem for not only biologists, but physicists as well. Nothing, according to Lanza, can explain the “molecules of consciousness bouncing around in our brain.”
Biocentrism is sometimes the view or belief that the rights and needs of humans are not more important than those of other living things. This is not that theory of philosophy; it is something entirely different.
The theory postulated by Lanza is that nothing exists outside of consciousness and life. Biology is the great creator. In Lanza’s view, we humans have become very good at understanding the mechanics of our universe. We look at the rotations of planets, and we know chemical properties and can explain how apples fall from trees.
What we can’t explain is why. Why does the universe work as it does? Why can we not explain yet why we have consciousness, or what we should be doing with it? Biocentrism explains the why. Max Planck, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, stated:
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
Lanza, with Biocentrism, seeks to explain the difference between what we all perceive to be an objective reality versus a life-centric reality.
“If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?”
Objective reality says, why yes, of course it does. Biocentrism reality says, not unless there is an ear nearby. The science is lengthy but makes a point – without the ear to hear, the sound does not really exist. The tree falling creates puffs of air which stimulate aneardrum that translates the shift of air into a sort of sound. The sound is entirely held within our brains. The sound requires life and consciousness to comprehend it. The human must remove themselves from the equation to see the validity of the argument, and put themselves back in to understand the human place in creating the universe.
- The First Principle of Biocentrism is that “what we perceive as reality is a process that requires our consciousness.” Or, said slightly differently, requires “any” consciousness. If I ask you, where is the universe, most might answer, “out there.” What many struggle with is that we are part of the same universe; what is out there is what is in here.
- The Second Principle of Biocentrism is that “internal and external perceptions are intertwined; they are different sides of the same coin and cannot be separated.”
In a complex explanation, Lanza says the general idea is that our brains create the reality we see. In this book, “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe,” Lanza explains all of this in an answer to the question: “Where is the Universe?”
In total, there are seven principles to Biocentrism, according to Lanza.
- The most interesting one, in relation to death, is the Fourth Principle of Biocentrism: without consciousness, “matter” dwells in an undetermined state of probability.
Any universe that could have preceded consciousness only existed in a probability state. This seems to state that we, as are in that undetermined state of probability, and that our matter never really “goes away” but is folded into and part of the ongoing reality of the universe. Our consciousness separates from matter but doesn’t cease to exist because it’s all part of the same consciousness. This reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s story, “American Gods.” Gods exist and thrive because of our consciousness of them.
Life creates the Universe. The Universe (Darwinism, the Big Bang, etc) did not create life. We’ve got it backwards.
It seems like such a simple turn of phrase, one which everyone can identify with. Lanza brings to bear all the science and experiential anecdotes to back it up. He picks us up, kicking and screaming, from seeing the universe one way and to standing on our heads, viewing it another. These theories harken back to the ideals of Eastern Philosophies and Freemasonry.
Freemasons, Buddhists, and Taoists seek balance and unification, we see an understanding of nature and science, and a middle path. For the Buddhist, our consciousness allows us to connect with the One – the whole. For the Taoist, the focus is a seamless flow of life – where there are no individuals but a single existence. For the Freemason, we seek unity and harmony, and the idea that as a unit, we are also creators. None of this is incompatible with Lanza’s scientific and philosophical approach to how the universe, physics, works.
So, to the original questions: “Do we die?” and “Is it inevitable?”
According to Lanza, we are already dead, alive, past, future, and creators right now. The limitations are in our own perceptions and ideas of reality. All of it is right now because we, and all matter, are conscious. Lanza himself addressed this question in a Psychology Today article, located here.
Perhaps if more people could look at the universe from this new paradigm, we would become the creators we already are; we create and destroy together, whether we believe it or not.
- For a really good read, try out Lanza’s book on Biocentrism and his follow-on book, “Beyond Biocentrism.”
- For an interesting Buddhist view of Biocentrism, look to “The Endless Further,” a Buddhist’s blog.
Categories: Natural Science, Philosophy